Wildlife photographer Dani Connor was photographing red squirrels in Sweden last year when she discovered four baby orphaned squirrels. In this beautiful 30-minute short film she made, titled The Squirrels & Me, Connor shares how she rescued the baby squirrels and then befriended a family of them.
Connor, a British photographer who travels the world, had been photographing all kinds of wildlife in Northern Sweden when she became enamored by the red squirrel in particular.
“With exaggerated ear tufts, a charismatic personality, and an adorable face, it is difficult not to fall in love with them,” Connor says.
In June 2020, Connor was saddened to find that one of the female squirrels she had become acquainted with, which she named “Remy,” had been struck and killed by a car on the road through the nearby village.
After giving Remy a proper farewell, and knowing that the squirrel had been pregnant, Connor spotted a baby red squirrel nearby. When the baby scampered up the tree, Connor sat on the forest floor for 7 hours, waiting to see if any adult squirrels would climb up the same tree to care for the babies, but no adult showed up.
“I spoke to several wildlife rescues, and I was told this squirrel kit was too young to survive without its mother,” Connor says. “It needed rearing in captivity. But how was I going to capture a 7-week-old red squirrel?”
The following day, Connor returned to the spot in the forest and discovered that there was actually a litter of squirrels.
From that day onward, Connor would spend 4 to 6 hours a day with the baby squirrels, to which she gave the names Pear, Cheburashka, Moomin, and Little Flame.
The baby squirrels soon learned to recognize Connor by her voice, coming down from the trees whenever they detected her presence.
Connor spent the following weeks documenting the daily lives of the litter, watching them do things like climb up and down trees, chase each other, and bury food for the future.
“Red squirrel mortality is as high as 70% in their first year,” Connor says. “Predators, domestic cats, the road, and even deforestation are all threats for these baby squirrels.”
Unfortunately, Moomin and Little Flame disappeared after Connor had tracked the litter for some days.
“When I discovered the baby squirrels were alive, I didn’t expect any to survive,” the photographer says. “Baby Pear and Cheburashka are doing well. They have grown a lot and are starting to find their own food.”
After spending 5 months in Northern Sweden, Connor left the country, only to return to the location 6 months later during the UK’s second COVID-19 lockdown.
Connor visited the forest daily for three weeks, hoping to be reunited with Baby Pear. While she rediscovered a couple of other squirrels she had become acquainted with during the summer, Baby Pear was nowhere to be seen.
But then one day, Connor decided to stay home. When she opened the curtains that morning, she saw a young squirrel outside.
“As soon as I saw the squirrel, I knew who it was, and his behavior proved to me it was Baby Pear,” Connor says. “Despite all odds, Baby Pear had survived.”
She then spotted another young squirrel nearby. It was Cheburashka.
“When I arrived [in] Sweden, I had no idea I would develop such a strong connection to these animals,” the photographer says. “After spending so many hours in the forest with these squirrels, I was able to identify each of them and understand their different personalities and behaviors.”
P.S. We previously featured Connor’s journey of rescuing the baby squirrels in the early days after her recording of a baby squirrel eating went viral online in June of 2020.